There's nothing quite like the allure of an unsolved mystery. Back in 1971, a Northwest Airlines 727 was hijacked by a man known simply as 'D.B. Cooper'. He was polite and calm as he explained to the stewardess that he had a bomb, then demanded $200,000 and two parachutes. The plane flew to Seattle. Cooper received his money and released the passengers. The plane took off again. Somewhere over the mountainous terrain of Washington State, Cooper used the rear 'airstairs' (a unique feature of the 727) to skydive out of the plane and into legend. D.B. Cooper was never seen or heard from again. The case remains open, although many law enforcement officials believe Cooper pershed in the jump, and both his body and the money were lost to the elements.
Or, maybe not.
The upcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine puts forward a new theory in the Cooper case. Over 1,000 people have been suspected of the crime over the years, and every one has been abandoned for one reason or another. But this new suspect- Kenneth Christiansen- seems to have a lot going for him. Christiansen was a paratrooper; he worked for Northwest Airlines; he settled in Washington State near the site of the hijacking and he shared D.B.'s predilection for cigarettes and bourbon.
Whether or not Christiansen is D.B. Cooper is, from a legal perspective anyway, moot. He died of cancer in 1994. But check out this cryptic remark he made to his brother while on his deathbed:
“There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you.”
Ominous. Of course, Christiansen was apparently gay, so he may have been trying to tell his brother about his sexual orientation. But it's a lot more interesting to think he trying to reveal his identity as D.B. Cooper, but couldn't quite find the courage.
In any event, the article is well worth a read. Who knows? Kenneth Christiansen could very well be the answer to the decades old riddle of D.B. Cooper.
Photo: A sketch artist's impression of DB Cooper (left) and the real-life Kenneth Christiansen (right).